If you’re feeling nagged to talk, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed, too.
Avoidance may seem like the only solution for relief. This relief is only temporary, though, because it leaves your spouse without resolution—and often determined to try harder.
You may begin to feel like a trapped victim, at the mercy of your spouse’s “need to talk.” Worse yet, you may anticipate another session of having your shortcomings pointed out.
Avoidance doesn’t work. But here are some suggestions if you’re feeling cornered by a spouse who always seems to be asking, “Can we talk?”
- Take the initiative to spend time doing things together other than talking.
- Go to a Christian bookstore and buy a book about communication in marriage. Read from it aloud to your spouse and ask her questions about her reactions.
- Share a chore, like doing the dishes. You may find yourself communicating during the dull moments.
- When she’s not expecting it, ask her what she really needs. Say, “How can I show you I love you?” or, “What would make your day easier?”
- Put the newspaper away, neglect a hobby, or shut the TV off in order to spend time with your spouse.
- Keep a sense of humor. Find cartoons about how different men and women are, and how they communicate. Make more fun of your own gender than the other person’s.
These are all good things to do, but it’s also important for you to ask for the peace and quiet you may need. Otherwise, you’ll probably feel like a helpless victim of your mate’s demands.
One way to do this is to set a specific time to talk. This should thrill your spouse, since it represents a commitment to communicate. The limits need to be spelled out, though, in order to avoid false expectations. Your spouse may be thinking of a marathon conversation, while you may dread anything longer than a TV sitcom.
Try 20 or 30 minutes to start. That’s probably the most you’d want for a serious discussion. Pray at the beginning and the end if you like. Get a kitchen timer and stick to the limit. Promise not to run, but allow for a time-out if things get too intense.
What should you do during that time? Here are some ideas:
- Explore and discuss your needs for communication.
- Explore and discuss your needs for quiet or alone time.
- Explore and discuss your needs for outside friendships and recreation.
- Use “I” statements to convey feelings of being pressured, overwhelmed, or discouraged. This will help keep your spouse from feeling attacked. For example: “I feel hopeless when I hear ‘We need to talk,’ because it reminds me of my mom. She always used that phrase when I was in trouble.” This is better than, “You’re just like my mom!” The goal is for the speaker to feel heard and understood.
- If you need to take a time-out, be sure to schedule a reunion within 24 hours for further discussion. This gives both of you a sense of reassurance and safety.